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Davis returns with record deal, growing confidence

Fast-rising West Linn grad will perform a mix of original songs, jazz standards and pop hits during tour stop in Hillsboro

SUBMITTED PHOTO: SHERVIN LAINEZ - Kate Davis, formerly of West Linn, will perform in Hillsboro this weekend.

Kate Davis made a name for herself in the music industry with her versions of songs by jazz legends like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone, and by putting her own, jazzy spin on the hit radio song “All About That Bass.”

Now the 24-year-old singer and multi-instrumentalist is ready to take her career to the next level.

Armed with a new record deal and the confidence that comes with it, Davis is writing and performing more of her own songs on a current tour that stops at the Walters Cultural Center in Hillsboro on Friday, Nov. 20.

Davis will perform the same mix of classics and clever takes on modern pop hits that she is known for, but show attendees shouldn’t be surprised to hear a few more original works in the fast-rising star’s set.

“I grew up playing jazz and I was able to learn a lot from that,” Davis said during a recent phone interview between tour stops in Florida. “But one day I realized I wanted to concentrate on my own songs. I find it to be the most personal form of expression.”

The progression seems natural for Davis, who began playing violin at age 5 and has been on the rise seemingly ever since. Her family moved from New York to West Linn when she was 10, and she continued her musical growth by learning to play piano and double bass.

As a teenager, she earned a spot in the Portland Youth Philharmonic orchestra and began considering music as a career path.

“That was really huge for me because the quality of that orchestra is insane,” she said.

Having been named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts before graduating from West Linn High School in 2009, Davis enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music, a major conservatory located in New York City. While concentrating her studies on jazz and American standards, she began writing her own songs to perform and was recognized with an award for new songwriters by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 2012.

Since then, Davis’ career has been a whirlwind of opportunity and recognition in the music business. She was named one of “15 Females Who Will Rule Pop” by MTV, has opened for renowned vocalist Josh Groban and has shared the stage and collaborated with such industry notables at Alison Krauss, Ben Folds, Joshua Bell and Aoife O’Donovan.

A video Davis posted late last year — a jazzy interpretation of the Meghan Trainor pop hit “All About That Bass” — caused an Internet sensation with more than 14 million views on YouTube.

Earlier this year she stepped in at the last-minute to replace Grammy winner Kurt Elling on the PBS special “American Voices” and has performed at numerous world-class venues, including the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Carnegie Hall in New York and Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow.

All the attention sparked the interest of record companies, and this past summer signed on with the California-based Concord Music Group.

“It seemed right away that they were willing to support my journey as an artist,” Davis said, who expects to release her debut album in spring of next year. “They seemed to be looking at it from an artist’s perspective, and I appreciated that.”

Concord executive Mark Wexler described Davis as a “stunning musical talent with a wholly original voice whose potential is unlimited.”

Coming home

Davis is currently on a short tour, with nine performances in five states. On the West Coast leg she’s leading a three-piece band accompanied by drummer Conor Rayne and guitarist Alex Foote.

The Hillsboro show will be the last on the tour, leaving time for Davis to catch up with family and friends in Oregon.

“I’m excited about it,” she said. “I’ve been home about every year since leaving for college, and it’s where I need to be at the holidays.”

She said she’s using the tour as a chance to try out and polish material for the debut album, expected to be out next spring. Concert goers can expect to see her flexing her songwriting muscles along with her vast array of instrumental and vocal skills.

Along with upright bass, she plays piano, guitar and bass guitar.

“I’ve played a lot of standards in the past because I didn’t have that much of my own material,” Davis said. “This go-around, because I have a lot more material and ultimately will be recording an album, it helps me to try stuff out and get an understanding of what works.

“I’ve done these Hillsboro shows for a couple of years, but this year will be different. It should reflect my growth as an artist.”

Contact Phil Favorite at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-659-5433.